International journalists and an Egyptian journalists’ union have called on the Egyptian government to release a three-man Al Jazeera team imprisoned without charge in Cairo for more than two weeks.
In a statement issued on Monday, the Freedoms Committee of the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate demanded the release of producers Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, and correspondent Peter Greste, who stand accused of spreading lies harmful to state security and joining a terrorist organisation.
It expressed “deep concern over continued arrest campaigns targeting journalists and media personnel, the latest of which is the arrest of three people from the English-speaking Al Jazeera Channel, who are professional in their work, away from any political affiliation”.
“The committee demands their immediate release, since their detention stains the country’s reputations abroad and is a strong proof of the policy of oppression against those who have an opposite opinion.”
The Committee’s statement coincided with another by an international coalition of 46 editors and correspondents, who said the Al Jazeera team had been “arbitrarily imprisoned”.
The statement, signed by senior representatives from CNN, the Observer, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, Le Monde, the Daily Telegraph and others, called for their release and that of other journalists, some of whom had been imprisoned for more than five months.
“The arrest of these journalists has cast a cloud over press and media freedom in Egypt.
“We strongly believe that upholding the rights of journalists and permitting the free flow of information is vital to bringing about greater understanding and serves the best interests of all Egyptians and the world.”
Greste, Fahmy and Mohamed were arrested on December 29 and were remanded to 15 more days in custody on January 8, according to the state prosecutor.
They were initially arrested along with cameraman Mohamed Fawzy, who was later released.
Al Jazeera denies the accusations against its team and has expressed outrage at the continued detention of its journalists without charge.
“We condemn the allegations directed at our staff by Egyptian authorities which are aiming to stigmatise us, and further incite violence against our journalists working on the ground.
“This is all part of a larger antagonistic campaign against us,” Ghassan Abu Hussein, Al Jazeera Media Network official spokesperson, said.
The broadcaster is becoming increasingly concerned about the safety of its staff members as their imprisonment continues.
Al Jazeera Arabic’s Abdullah Al Shami and Al Jazeera Mubashar Misr cameraman Mohammed Badr also remain in Egyptian custody.
The network is demanding the freedom of all its staff locked up in Egypt.